Stages of Violence

Stages of violence, the steps by which ordinary humans turn violent

In his book Masters of Death, author Richard Rhodes draws on the research of criminologist Lonnie Athens in an attempt to explain how German soldiers could be humanly capable of executing thousands of innocent Jewish civilians at gunpoint. Through interviews with violent criminals, Athens ascertained a minimum sequence of violent socialization. These stages of violence were not present in those who … Read more

The 21st-Century Road to Immortality

The 21st-century road to immortality

In her book New Demons, philosopher Simona Forti traces the genealogy of philosophical evil, beginning with what she calls the “Dostoevsky paradigm.” According to her reading of the great Russian novelist, individual evil stems from the will to achieve God-like omnipotence. Yet humans are incapable of creating objects out of nothing. Thus, the only path by which to approach God’s power … Read more

Are there pathological do-gooders?

Mother Teresa, an example of pathological do-gooders?

In his book The Mask of Sanity, Dr. Hervey Cleckley depicts psychopaths as individuals lacking a strong internal restraint mechanism. In most humans, this internal check discourages the performance of socially unacceptable actions. Lacking this restraint, psychopaths steal, lie, defraud, brawl, drink to excess, and engage in sexual promiscuity on a whim. Moreover, they perform these actions without any comprehensible motivating factor. The … Read more

Four Free Short Stories

Overcoming History, and anthology of four free short stories

I recently partnered with my writer friends RC Hancock, Barbara Pietron and Molleen Zwiker to produce a collection of short fiction. You can read these four short stories for free here:​Overcoming History – An Anthology of Short Fiction

The Prisoner’s Dilemma and Newcomb’s Problem

The Prisoner's Dilemma

The Prisoner’s Dilemma Two members of a criminal gang, Simon and Peter, are arrested under suspicion of committing an armed robbery. The police do not have sufficient evidence to charge either one with the robbery. Instead, they interrogate both suspects individually and offer each the following bargain, hoping one will incriminate the other. If Simon and Peter both incriminate each other, each of … Read more

Self-Driving Cars and the Trolley Problem

Who should decide how self-driving cars behave in unavoidable collisions?

When I talk about my novel Our Dried Voices at a book signing or other public appearance, I like to discuss some of the automated technologies we use on a regular basis in our current lives. I almost always mention that many cars now parallel park themselves. (At least nine automobile manufacturers now offer cars with automated parking.) Parallel parking … Read more

Children of the Magenta

Pilots who depend too much on automation are called “Children of the Magenta"

In general, technology is a good thing. It’s humans that are the problem. Case in point: nuclear energy versus nuclear weapons. Splitting the atom was a huge step forward in the progress of human history. But it came with the unfortunate side effect that some humans realized they could use this technology to instantaneously annihilate entire populations of other humans. … Read more

New Ebola vaccine is ahead of schedule

New Ebola vaccine has been 100% effective

Last night, multiple reports surfaced of a new Ebola vaccine that has proven 100% effective thus far. According to BBC News, “officials at the WHO [World Health Organization] believe the effectiveness of the vaccine will end up being between 75% and 100%.” This promising treatment puts the fight against the Ebola virus well ahead of my prediction in Our Dried Voices. … Read more

The Petrov Ramjet

Bussard ramjet

Last week, NASA astronomers announced the discovery of the planet Kepler 425b, a new candidate for Earth 2.0. So far, NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has found 4,696 such possible home worlds. Unfortunately, Kepler 425b is 1,400 light-years away from Earth. So how could we ever reach such a planet, even one within 50 or 100 light-years of Earth? In 1960, … Read more